Wellington - All
Blacks hooker Dane Coles revealed his struggles during his long injury
absence on Friday as he prepared to make his first start for the
Hurricanes in 18 months.
Coles said being out of the team and spending long hours alone in the
gym had made for a tough year as he recovered from rupturing knee
ligaments in November 2017.
The 32-year-old, who has 60 All Blacks caps, will now hope to stay
injury-free as the clock ticks down to the Rugby World Cup in Japan, which
starts in September.
"Last year was long - you're on the team but you're not
contributing, you're in the gym by yourself. It does take its toll,"
Coles told media in New Zealand, ahead of Saturday's Super Rugby game
against the Crusaders.
"It definitely felt like a really long year."
Coles, who will captain the Hurricanes, hasn't started a Super Rugby
game since the Wellington side's semi-final defeat to the Lions in July
2017. He injured himself in an international against France.
"It (a comeback) probably did seem a bit far away last year. I had to
pinch myself even last week, being amongst the boys and putting that
jersey on," he said.
"All the stuff I went through in the last couple of years, it makes
it all worth the effort to finally get that number two on my back and
put that shirt on again.
"I'm very happy. I've got a job to do now. Hopefully I can go out and lead the boys and set an example tomorrow night."
Coles said his immediate priority was to resume playing regularly as
selection looms for the Rugby Championship and the World Cup, where New
Zealand are the two-time defending champions.
"I just want to play a lot of footy, week in, week out for the Hurricanes. That's my only goal for the moment," he said.
"If I can do that it (All Blacks selection) will take care of itself
and hopefully the selectors will see that and give me another
opportunity for the All Blacks.
"I'm just enjoying my time ... I'm going to cherish every moment that I get to play with my team-mates."
15 David Havili, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty,
11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo
Douglas, 7 Matt Todd (captain), 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Quinten Strange, 4
Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody
16 Ben Funnell, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano,
20 Tom Sanders, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor
Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Ben
Lam, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis
Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Liam Mitchell, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff
Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Chris Eves
16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Ben May, 19 Isaia
Walker-Leawere, 20 Sam Henwood, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Jackson
Garden-Bachop, 23 Ngani Laumape